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Thursday, March 23, 2017
New report on future of Catholic Church in Britain
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¬†A new report on the future of the Catholic Church in Britain has been launched by a former head of the Catholic Media Office. Responding to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's call for "a lot more lay Catholics to speak out", Tom Horwood argues for a strategic approach in tackling the challenges faced by the Church today. These challenges include a rapidly changing society, declining attendance, irregular commitment, poor communication, liturgical disputes and child abuse. Horwood draws on original research as well as his six years of close work with the bishops of England and Wales. He said: "This report presents the critical issues that must be faced head-on. "If we do not tackle them now, in a generation or so no one will be able to. A new strategic approach, respectful of Catholic tradition, is the right way to do this. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but these proposals should be discussed seriously." The report, entitled: 'The Future of the Catholic Church in Britain', is accompanied by a website - The book is available for £8.99 from Laicos Press, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY (cheques to Laicos Press). Horwood sets out how the Church at national and local level can use better strategic thinking to plan for a more positive future. He added: "While there is criticism about how some things have been done in the past, the comments are all constructive, never destructive. As the Cardinal has suggested, this is an important debate and lay Catholics and clergy can get more involved in shaping the future of the Church." Among the chapters, Horwood presents a uniquely comprehensive picture of how the Church in Britain has dealt with child abuse since the 1970s. He puts forward suggestions for how the Church's current rules can be improved. The report concludes with 24 constructive recommendations for how the Church in Britain can be renewed. Tom Horwood worked for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales for six years; he was acting director of the Catholic Media Office in London for one year (2001) and communications adviser to the Nolan Review of Child Protection. A summary of the report follows. 1. Introduction The Church in Britain is in crisis with declining attendance, patchy commitment among adherents, child abuse scandals and challenges to authority. It needs new solutions if it is to have a future. The case for new strategic thinking. 2. Counting the decline A presentation of decline. A range of statistics on membership, attendance, vocations and finance is presented in the context of wider society. 3. Spreading the good news Contrasted with the actual evidence for decline is the Christian call to spread the good news. The concept of Catholic evangelisation and a surprising historical example provide lessons for today. Elements for a strategy for evangelisation are discussed. 4. Getting the message across The controversial issues of liturgy, authority, communication, and the media. Concepts of communication and relationship are discussed, and compared with how the Church actually communicates. The Church's approach is critiqued in a constructive way and solutions are presented. 5. Protecting our children The child abuse scandal from the 1970s to the present day is recounted in detail for the first time. This chapter relies on original research and reveals that the tendency to cover up has deep historical roots. Suggestions for how the Nolan Review's recommendations can be revised. The Church needs to acknowledge the specific aspects of Catholic culture that have contributed to abuse, and initiate genuine cultural change. 6. Leading the Church The root causes of the bishops' inability to set a clear direction are analysed. The careers of bishops and secretive method of appointing them are brought into the open. The Church's leadership criteria are compared with modern management theory and found lacking, and lessons are drawn. 7. Culture and change Change has long been a dirty word in the Church, but it has been a continuous feature of history. Some aspects of the culture of British Catholicism must be changed in a planned way. Two areas are discussed where people have felt marginalised: the role of women, and homosexuality. Finally, four factors that explain resistance to change are described. 8. The enemy within The most serious barrier to change is fear. The Church should be a beacon of hope, and that starts with addressing fear and lack of faith. 9. A new opportunity The papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI are evaluated. 10. Planning the future Twenty four recommendations are set out. They draw on the whole book and are all constructive suggestions that will help bring about positive and beneficial differences. 11. A dynamic crucible Final remarks emphasising the overarching themes of the report and the crucial role of the Spirit in stimulating living religion.
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